Cultivating Tulips by Claudia M. Reder

Cultivating Tulips

In the house I’ve never lived in,
I warm my hands in the deep kitchen sink.

From my apartment window
I wrestle a vivid color or scent
from this house I’ve never lived in
where the colors of tulips match the paint
of the walls — and an aroma of sticky buns
for Sunday breakfasts.

One day I may say aloud, this is where
I raised the children I never had,
with a husband who never yelled.
White dogwood peeks into the second story windows.
Red and orange tulips border the front door.

I study tulip manuals,
varieties of early and late bloomers,
press their tall hardy stems. I plant
Rainbow Parrot tulips and Queen of Night tulips,
Mixed Triumphs and Red Oxfords
for the walkway, backyard, and window boxes.

I wish I could have given my daughter
a home where colors bloomed.
I would scatter the frost resistant bulbs in Fall,
knowing we would be around in spring
to see them root and blossom,
and in the afternoons catch
that still moment when the petals
full and bright fold into evening.


Claudia M. Reder is the author of How to Disappear, a poetic memoir, (Blue Light Press, 2019). Uncertain Earth (Finishing Line Press), and My Father & Miro (Bright Hill Press). How to Disappear was awarded first prize in the Pinnacle and Feathered Quill awards. She was awarded the Charlotte Newberger Poetry Prize from Lilith Magazine, and two literary fellowships from the Pennsylvania Arts Council. She recently retired from teaching at California State University at Channel Islands. For many years she has been a poet/storyteller in the Schools. Publications include Alaska Quarterly Review, Nimrod, and Healing Muse.